History of Kombu and Kombu Road
Kombu seaweed from Hokkaido has been distributed throughout Japan for centuries and is an important commercial issue. Kombu seaweed harvested in Hokkaido were previously transported by boat, moving westward along the coast of Sea of Japan to Osaka, a commercial center since that time. For this reason, wholesalers and processors of kombu seaweed are found mainly in or around Osaka. The route the kombu took from Hokkaido to its destination is called the Kombu road. It extends to China via Okinawa.
The different kombu seaweed in Japan
Kombu algae are found in many countries around the world, including Japan, Russia, China, the Tasmanian Islands, Australia, South Africa, the Scandinavian Peninsula and Canada. In Japan, most of the kombu is harvested in Hokkaido, accounting for about 90% of total production. The waters of the Arctic Ocean that derive from Siberia to Hokkaido are rich in minerals and provide an environment that produces delicious kombu. The equipment used in Japan to dry kombu seaweed in the sun meets the most demanding sanitary standards, making Japanese kombu particularly popular worldwide.
<p>The Saga Bay in the Ariake Sea is famous for the cultivation of nori, a seaweed that is widely used in Japanese cuisine. The region concentrate 20% of Japanese nori production, even up to 40% if including Fukuoka, Kumamoto and Nagasaki. The Saga Bay is surrounded by mountains which deposits and rivers wind down to the sea. The rich minerals they brought were responsible for the origins of nori <a href="https://www.nishikidori.com/en/15-seaweeds">seaweed</a> cultivation at the beginning of the 20th Century.When eaten fresh from collection, this seaweed has a lovely salty taste, subtle and not at all overpowering. It is the harmony of gentle neighbouring mountain waters with salty marine currents which gives the well-renowned nori from Saga its unique earthy notes. It has a long, pleasant, fresh aftertaste. To produce dried nori seaweed, the fishermen chop and shred the fresh nori then mix it with sweet water.</p>
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Ne Kombu Shoyu soy sauce
Ne kombu is the part of kombu seaweed that is very close to the root, the most nutritious. When the kombu is young, this part is extremely nutritious because the cells divide and develop. It contains a large amount of fiber, iodine, calcium, iron, potassium, etc. This part is very limited, only a few centimeters for each kombu seaweed, which makes it a very precious food.
Natural extract of Ne kombu is added to this soy sauce.
MORE ABOUT KOMBU SEAWEED
Your Japanese grocery store Nishikidôri tells you everything
What is Kombu?
Kombu is a brown seaweed that is harvested near the island of Hokkaido. These kombu seaweeds are used to season dishes or to make the Japanese broth called "dashi", broth which is the base of miso soup and many other dishes of the Japanese cuisine. They have the particularity to enhance the taste by providing Umami. Various products are made from Kombu (Kombu Tsukudani, Shiofuki kombu, Salt dashi...etc).
It is a traditional, ancestral ingredient (more than 2000 years of history), essential and indispensable for Japanese cuisine.
The different types of Kombu
There are different types of Kombu, the name associated with Kombu defines its origin on the sea coast where it is harvested.
Makombu: harvested near Hakodate in southern Hokkaido. It is a high-quality Kombu with thick flesh. Very suitable for making sweet and tasty Dashi. It is a "generalist" Kombu with various uses.
Rishiri Kombu: Harvested in northern Hokkaido, near Rebun, Rishiri, Wakkanai. Prized by Kyoto cooks for its fineness and clear color. The flesh is hard and not suitable for processing. This seaweed is suitable for Japanese haute cuisine, Kaiséki, and enhances the taste of Kyoto vegetables.
Rausu Kombu: Harvested near the Shiretoko peninsula, east of Rausu. This seaweed gives concentrated and strong dashi, but with little iodine.
Hidaka Kombu: harvested near Cape Erimo, popular in Eastern Japan, and suitable for making stewed kombu.
Other Kombu: Gagome Kombu, Hosomekombu...etc
Kombu suitable for making dashi are Makombu, Rishikombu and Rausukombu.
Naniwa Kombu House in Kobe
Ninawa Kombu Co. Ltd. buys the kombu directly from the fishermen. The kombu seaweed is then stored and aged in a cellar, a process that aims to reduce the odor of the seaweed and increase the Umami. Once aged, the kombu seaweed is sold as is or processed into various products and sold to wholesalers, retailers, restaurants, and individuals.
The strong points of Naniwa Kombu are its mastery of kombu from the purchase from fishermen to the sale of the final products (purchase/manufacturing/sale to wholesalers, and retailers). The other point is that Naniwa is an expert in high-quality wild Makombu and is one of the few houses in possession of vintage wild Makombu of increasingly precious quality.
The wild kombu has 3 naming ribs:
- Hombaorihama: very long and wide seaweed
- Kurokuchihama: softer and higher quality seaweed, minimum 2 years of breeding
- Shirokuchihama: the best quality seaweed, aged for at least 5 years in Ostsube
The elements to obtain a quality wild kombu are numerous, the sea and the sea currents must be cold enough, and the location of the coasts (nutrients from the mountain springs and crossing of the currents) plays a primordial role. The cultivation period in the sea must be at least 2 years to obtain a quality wild kombu, followed by a period in the warehouse to dry the seaweed, this period can go up to 9 years.
The different types of Kombu according to the production method
Wild Kombu is Kombu that has grown naturally on rocks at the bottom of the sea near the coast, these rocks are located between 1 and 13 meters deep, and the Kombu grows upwards. This Kombu stays in the sea for at least 2 years to spend at least 2 cold winters and is then harvested in summer. The dashi made from this Kombu is extremely good but its price is unstable because the weather conditions have a great impact on the production.
Cultivated Kombu, this is Kombu that has been grown from Kombu spores on nets at sea for 2 years. Unlike wild Kombu, it grows downwards. Moreover, since it is cultivated, its price remains stable and it produces very good quality dashi with sufficiently thick and black seaweed.
Fast-growing Kombu is the same cultivation process as the previous Kombu, but it will only remain in the sea for one year before being harvested. This Kombu will not allow obtaining satisfactory dashi because of its fine and clear flesh, the taste will not be developed.
Kombu harvest is decreasing
Since the early 2000s, there has been a decrease in the amount of Kombu harvested, which is explained by climate change. Kombu needs cold water to grow, as well as not too strong sea currents in order not to tear off the algae. But with global warming, the ocean water is getting warmer and the currents are sometimes more violent, which disturbs the development of the algae and prevents the production level from being maintained. As a direct consequence, the seaweed stocks are decreasing and some types of Kombu can no longer be produced and are marketed only on the basis of the existing stock.
The main components of Kombu
- Glutamic acid: the famous component that gives the flavor of "Umami".
- Mannitol: is also, a component of "Umami", which has a diuretic effect.
- Alginic acid: it is a component of intestinal remedy, which activates the digestive enzymes. This acid brings a viscous sensation as well as thickness and a jelly-like side.
- Fucoidan: a molecule with virtues for intestinal remedies, it activates digestive enzymes and brings a viscous sensation.
- Minerality: Kombu seaweed provides rich minerals from the sea, including calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
- Vitamins B1, B2, K
How to prepare good Japanese dashi with Kombu and Katsuobushi
- To make a good dashi broth you will need for 1 liter of water, between 15 and 20 grams of kombu, and about 10 grams of dried bonito.
- Put the kombu seaweed in 1 liter of water, leave the kombu for at least 1 hour and then put it on medium heat.
- Turn off the heat just before boiling and remove the seaweed.
- Add the dried bonito while the water is still hot and let the bonito settle on the bottom (about 2 minutes).
- Strain the water to remove the dried bonito, being careful not to squeeze the bonito.
- The dashi broth (also called awase dashi) is ready, you can use it as it is or add miso to make a miso soup or you can freeze it for future use.
Where to find kombu seaweed?
You can find kombu seaweed in your Japanese grocery store Nishikidôri. You will have a large choice of kombu seaweed according to your needs.
For the preparation of dashi, we recommend Honbaorihama makombu Premium seaweed from Hokkaido. This seaweed is considered high quality and rare, it is one of the three best kombu in Japan.
For the preparation of tsukudani we recommend Kakugiri ma kombu seaweed, already cut into small squares of 2 cm sides this kombu will be perfect.
To sprinkle your dishes, we recommend the grated kombu seasoned, made from the best Oni kombu of Hokkaido.
How to use kombu seaweed?
Kombu seaweed can be used in many different ways. The most common is to make dashi broth. It can also be used as the main ingredient in the preparation of tsukudani. And finally, it can also be used to sprinkle your dishes (rice, noodles, or meat...).
What does kombu seaweed taste like?
Naturally, kombu seaweed has an iodine taste as it is cultivated in the sea, however, it has a particularity that other seaweeds do not have, sweetness.